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Stan! on Sale — Artwork

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, due to most of my planned work for November and December having been mothballed (details can be found here), I’ve decided to have try to make up at least some of the income shortfall by having a sale on my work. Part one of that is to announce some special pricing on my drawing services.

HERE’S THE DEAL
Below I’m going to spell out what my normal prices are for different types of drawing assignments, and what my sale prices are. The catch is that in order to get the sale price, you have to pay up front.

Since I’m hoping to book a fair amount of work this way, you have to understand that it may not be possible for me to do the work immediately . . at the very least, I’ll have to set up a queue, PLUS I do have a few other commitments (already scheduled full-price freelance work which will have to take priority). So if you have a specific deadline that must be met, let me know ahead of time, and I’ll let you know whether or not I can commit to meeting it. I DO plan to work through the assignments as quickly as I can because, if nothing else, I’m starting to book NEW work to do in 2015.

I know that money up front is asking a lot in the trust department. And I fully accept that such a deal is not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you prefer you can book using the regular method—setting up a firm schedule for completion of your project, and paying upon completion (or split partial payments, depending on the size of the assignment) . . . but that would have to be done at the full-price rates.

But if getting a bargain price is the most important thing for you, then here’s what I’ve got to offer.

CHARACTER DESIGN (No Background)
* Single Head & Shoulders—(reg. $30 color/$20 b&w)—SALE PRICE $20 color or b&w
* Single Full Figure—(reg. $50 color/$30 b&w)—SALE PRICE $30 color/$25 b&w
* Pair of Full Figures—(reg. $80 color/$40 b&w)—SALE PRICE $60 color/$30 b&w

ILLUSTRATION (Scene with Background)
* Spot Illo—(reg. $20)—SALE PRICE $10
* Quarter-Page—(reg. $50 color/$25 b&w)—SALE PRICE $25 color or b&w
* Half-Page—(reg. $100 color/$50 b&w)—SALE PRICE $50 color/$30 b&w
* Full-Page—(reg. $200 color/$100 b&w)—SALE PRICE $100 color/$60 b&w

CARICATURE (based on photo)
* Head & Shoulders—(reg. $25)—SALE PRICE $15
* Full Figure—(reg. $40)—SALE PRICE $25

COMICS (based on your script)
* Single Panel—(reg. $100 color/$50 b&w)—SALE PRICE $50 color/$30 b&w
* Strip (3–4 panels)—(reg. $150 color/$75 b&w)—SALE PRICE $100 color/$50 b&w
* Full Page (up to 9 panels)—(reg. $300 color/$150 b&w)—SALE PRICE $150 color/$100 b&w

As with so much in business, there is generally room for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to come to me with a proposal. And please post a comment or contact me (through email, Facebook, or Twitter) if you have any questions.

Also, feel free to spread this info around … indeed, PLEASE DO! The more people know about this sale, the more likely it is to generate work.

Next Kickstarter Re-Started

A couple of weeks back I made a post saying that I’m planning to launch a new Kickstarter campaign in the near future, one that would focus on new stories for Dr. Symm (the World’s Smartest Monkey). Well, one of these facts has changed . . . and I’m still planning on launching a Kickstarter. So there are two obvious questions.

WHY ARE YOU DITCHING DR. SYMM?
I’m not “ditching” Dr. Symm . . . I’ve just decided that another project is a BETTER fit for me to Kickstart in the short term.

I was deep in the process of Kickstarter planning—lots of notes, a few spreadsheets, a bar graph or two, and pages upon pages of doodles and other bits of creative detritus. As I explored some of the options for related and supporting products (things like post cards, art prints, lapel pins, etc.) I came across an option that seemed perfect, not just for supporting Dr. Symm, but also for other projects, too.

I jotted down some notes on ways that I might explore this new option as a stand-alone project after the Dr. Symm fundraising was through and went back to my planning. But the more I thought about it, the more possibilities came to mind. Eventually I realized that this was more than just a “fun follow-up” idea . . . it was a project that had the same kind of scope as what I was thinking about for Dr. Symm AND had the potential to appeal to an even broader audience. Best of all, it required significantly less work to get it into a launch-ready state. (Allow me to remain mysterious about the details for just a little bit longer, I’ll give them below, I promise.)

After mulling all this over for a day or so, it seemed obvious to me that the SMART thing to do was to set Dr. Symm aside and focus on this other project. And after mulling it over for another day, I realized that it was ALSO what I WANTED to do.

Dr. Symm is a character I’ve been working with off and on for about 15 years, and I was very excited to be prepping him for a big new project. I have no shortage of ideas for his continuing adventures, and the truth is that I’m continuing to develop them, even as I put the fundraising drive on the back burner for the time being. Ultimately, should this new project go well, it will put me in an even stronger position to promote and launch the Dr. Symm project.

So, while Dr. Symm is no longer going to be the focus of my next Kicktstarter, I’m NOT abandoning him. In fact, I think it’s highly likely that you’ll see me do Symm-related fundraising sometime in 2015.

WHAT WILL THE NEW KICKSTARTER ACTUALLY FOCUS ON?
So what is this miracle project that could pull me away from a character I’ve been pondering for more than a decade? What is this concept so wonderful that I couldn’t resist its siren call?

I’ll tell you . . . but I’m afraid it will sound silly. Like in the movie “The Graduate,” where the guest at Benjamin’s graduation party pulls him aside and says, “I just have one word for you—plastics! Promise me you’ll think about it.” But the project I’m going to pursue ALSO can be described in just one word . . . .

Stickers!

As I said above, this all started when I was looking for extras to use to bolster a different project. Thinking about other projects I backed through Kickstarter, I remembered that Cartozia Tales had included a small sheet of sticker with one of the issues . . . and it just so happened that social media had recently been placing ads for a service that prints stickers into nearly ever screen I opened . . . and I knew that Dr. Symm, should the funding succeed, would generate a bunch of art that would be suitable for that kind of treatment.

It would be fun, I thought, to have a sheet of Dr. Symm stickers. That’s the kind of thing that the target audience would love. (Kids, in case you didn’t know, love stickers the way steampunk cosplayers love goggles festooned with clockwork gears.) As I was mulling this over, I immediately thought of an existing set of illustrations I had in my archive that would also make a good sheet of stickers. Then I thought of another set . . . and had an idea for another set that I could put together pretty easily. And while I was thinking of more and more sets, a friend posted about how her daughter and son were fighting over a page of return address stickers because . . . well . . . simply because they WERE stickers.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized not just what a good idea producing stickers was, but also how well it fit into to the artwork I’ve proven I CAN and WILL produce no matter what . . . small, stand-alone figures that are equally nerdy and cute. And suddenly I realized that over the course of almost a week, all the time I HAD been devoting to Dr. Symm had been taken over by thoughts, research, and planning for producing stickers. THAT was the thing that finally clicked it over in my brain. With all that’s involved in running a Kickstarter (even a brief, low-target one), if it’s not focused on the one thing that is most all-consuming in your mind, then you’re in trouble on numerous fronts.

So I’m working up details, getting samples from manufacturers, and preparing to HOPEFULLY put together a Kickstarter that will: a) Run for only 10–15 days, b) Have a low threshold for success, c) Fund AND reach a few stretch goals PROFITABLY, d) Appeal to my existing fans AND a new audience in the sticker-loving world, and e) Open up the possibilities for ongoing business.

“Ongoing?” you ask. YES. At the same time I’m putting together the Kickstarter plans, I’m ALSO exploring the possibilities for an ongoing sticker-based Patreon project! Honestly, if I can get just a few hundred people interested, it should be a pretty strong success.

Stickers . . . Promise me you’ll think about it.

The Enemy Is Me

“No plan,” they say, “survives contact with the enemy” . . . and sometimes the enemy is me.

Earlier in the month I made a post about some recent setbacks I’ve had on professionally, and my short-term plans for revving things up and (hopefully) getting them back on track. These included a “sale” on some of my professional services and an upcoming Kickstarter campaign . . . and I promised more details in the week ahead. That was last week and, as you may have noticed, there were a grand total of ZERO updated from me during that time.

What happened? As luck would have it, I had a couple of short term assignments come up, and I spent the week working on them. Not enough to change the general course that things are going, but enough to sideline my immediate activities (like updating my blog and giving out the details I’d promised).

Also, as I began preparing information, budgets, and schedules for my Kickstarter, which I’d gone so far as to announce the topic for, I realized that another idea I’ve been noodling around on would make a much BETTER choice for a short-term project . . . and, after weighing my options, I decided that the best thing to do would be to make THAT the Kickstarter I launch in (hopefully) the next few weeks.

So, yeah. Sorry for getting you all worked up (to a greater or lesser degree) and then leave you hanging . . . and thank you for those who have checked in via Facebook or Twitter or email to say that you WANTED to support my efforts, and that you were afraid you’d somehow missed the boat.

You didn’t miss the boat. The boat was just delayed. And I’m getting ready for boarding soon (to painfully stretch that metaphor). My new, current, up to the minute (for now) plans are:

* Post an update about my Kickstarter plans on Tuesday.
* Post details of my “Stan! Sale” over the course of updates on Wed–Fri.
* Stay on target . . . or make sure I announce if the targets shift again.

So thank you again simply for caring. Really, that means more to me than anything else!

Weird Dreams

Generally, I have a difficult time remembering my dreams. At best, I wake up with a vague feeling related to whatever tale my subconscious was spinning for me. But over the past week or so I’ve had a few dreams that have stuck with me even after waking . . . and they’ve been a little weird.

Unfortunately, one of them slipped away from my waking brain even now as I was preparing to write about it (yeah . . . they’re THAT slippery). But another has been repeating in slight variations, so it’s easier to get hold of.

The basic event in these dreams is that I have been accused of something terrible that I did not do. Sometimes it’s criminal, and I’m under investigation, sometimes it’s just causing a big problem among friends, but no matter the details, it is clear in the dream that I am wholly innocent . . . I just have to PROVE it!

Helping me to do this is an innate ability (super power?) to jump back exactly 2 hours in time. (To be clear, this is only in the dream . . . I don’t REALLY have this power . . . y’know, in case you were confused on that point.)

In the dreams, it’s well past the 2 hour point for me to undo whatever it is I’m being accused of, but I CAN use the power to make my arguments more clearly and arrange for proof that is suddenly and unexpectedly demanded. However, it’s still an incremental improvement. I’m slowly moving opinion in my favor . . . but each misstep I make, or each time new “evidence” is introduced, it hurts my credibility and I have to jump back in time again to clear it up.

The dreams play out almost like video games, where I’m trying to align all of the right information and evidence to prove my innocence . . . but every time I get close a new problem appears in my way.

I’ve had these dreams three times this past week. More, actually, because I know I’ve woken up in the middle of them on a number of occasions and then fallen back into the SAME dream upon getting back to sleep. I have no good real-life literal interpretation for them. There isn’t anything I’m feeling guilty about, or being accused of (that I know about, anyway) . . . and I don’t have any situation where I feel I’m having to prove myself over and over (unless you count my ongoing job hunt).

The nice thing is, even though these are stressful situations in the dreams, I don’t waken with that stress. Or, if I do feel stress, it’s the “playing a video game that you just can’t beat” stress, and not the “my life is being threatened” kind.

Usagi and Me

I like comics. That probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this. I’ve read them since I was a kid, collected them since I was a teen, and have drawn them semi- and fully professionally for more than 30 years. I’ve got box loads of comics in plastic sleeves, and bookcases full of comic collections all over my home. I’ve got prints and original art on my walls, patches and stickers on my belongings, and files of digital images on my computers. They range from mid-20th-century comic strips to silver-age comic books to collections of 21st-century webcomics, and vary in subject from biography to history to fantasy and sci-fi. I have A LOT of comics! But if a crazed super-villain ever told me that I could only ever read one title for the rest of my life, I could make that call in a split second without any hesitation or doubt . . .

. . . Usagi Yojimbo!

Stan Sakai’s brilliant anthropomorphic tale of a 16th-century Japan as seen through the eyes of a wandering masterless samurai is, in my opinion, a nearly perfect thing.

I first discovered Usagi Yojimbo in 1985 with the second ever tale—a back-up story in issue #3 of Albedo Anthropomorphics—and I don’t think I’ve missed an issue or appearance since. I’ve bought every issue, from series published by three different companies, plus every collected volume . . . in both hardcover and paperback.

I think it’s safe to say that I own just about every Usagi Yojimbo story . . . and I own at least three printings of most of them.

So it should surprise no one that as a 50th birthday present, I treated myself to the hardcover version The Usagi Yojimbo Saga, vol. 1, which collects three of the previous books into an omnibus edition. More than 600 pages of comics that I now own in the FOURTH time . . . and I couldn’t be happier.

 

“Happy Birthday” as a Marketing Ploy

In recent years, as user-centric metrics and targeted marketing have grown, it’s become pretty common for me to get a dozen or more birthday wishes from companies that I’ve patronized in the past (sometimes only once and YEARS in the past). I’m okay with this. If a company wants to spend some of its time, energy, and budget on wishing me well, I’ll take it.

In fact, many of the emails, texts, and FB messages I received from companies yesterday came with “presents” … coupons or “birthday discounts” or other special offers to entice me to “treat myself” to the company’s wares as part of my celebration. Again, fair enough. A coupon is a coupon, and they do represent some (often small) savings.

What gets me, though, are the emails (and in one case, a hand-written physical birthday card) I got from companies that wished me well, offered me no coupon or discount, and suggested that it’d be a “treat” for me to patronize them in honor of my birthday.

Seriously?!?

I just don’t understand the thought process behind that. What marketing genius thought that “Happy birthday, please give us some money!” was a winning program?

Now, I like some of these companies, and I WILL continue to patronize them. But I sure as heck do not feel like they were in any way “honoring” me by giving me the hard-sell on my birthday.

Half-Century Stan!

Happy birthday to me!
Happy birthday to me!

I know that a lot of people like to obfuscate their birthdays . . . not letting folks know when they are, or claiming to be some age (generally younger by a few years) than they actually are, or even just locking themselves away to mark the occasion with a private sulk.

I never understood that.

I mean, birthday or no . . . you’re still one day older than you were yesterday. Whatever number is pegged on your personal oldometer . . . it has no effect on how you feel or what you do. It really is just another day . . . except you have a culturally sanctioned reason to celebrate YOU.

Today I’m 50 years old and, all things considered, it feels pretty great.

On occasions like this, when the birthday marks a particularly round number, people often ask if there are any philosophical or metaphysical insights that you have garnered in achieving this milestone. And I’m sorry, but I don’t . . . I’ve been too busy listening to the “classic hits” radio station.

* Don’t Stop Believin’ — If you have a passion, if you have a dream, if you have a vision . . . follow it. You don’t have to turn your back on reason and mundane reality, you don’t have to divest yourself from the work-a-day world, but for goodness sake don’t let them be the reason you give up on your dreams. Hold on to that feeling.

* You Can’t Always Get What You Want — The dreams you believe in may not easily be achieved . . . in fact, often they’ll end up being beyond your grasp. But the greatest happiness in life is gotten through PURSUING your dreams, not necessarily in achieving them. You may not get what you want. But I think you’ll find that you get what you need.

* Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Life is filled with many successes and many failures, many unexpected joys and many unforeseen calamities, many wins and many losses. You can’t control what cards you’re dealt, but you do have something to say about how you react. I’m not saying that it’s good to be a Pollyanna, I’m just saying that having as positive an attitude as possible makes bad times easier, and good times better.

* Be Excellent To Each Other — This whole “life” thing is pretty tough. No matter how good you’ve got it (and I know I’ve had it pretty dang good these past fifty years) there are times when it just wears on you, and moments when it seems like more than you can bear. A kind word from a stranger, or warm smile from a friend often makes more difference than we’ll ever know. Be generous with those resources . . . it turns out that they’re only as limited as we make them.

* And Party On, Dudes! — Celebrate your victories as they come . . . even if that “victory” is just making it through the week. We’re often too stingy with ourselves when it comes to simply taking a few moments to feel proud of our accomplishments. I’m not saying that you should wallow in your success, but it’s okay to give yourself a little pat on the back for what you’ve done before you bull ahead with what you need to do next.

Oh . . . and always wear sunscreen!

What’s This About a Kickstarter?

Over the past week or so I’ve casually thrown out references to the fact that I’m considering running a new Kickstarter campaign. Although I like to support and promote my friends’ Kickstarters, the last time I did one of my own was back in 2012 for The Littlest Shoggoth, and it went pretty well (if I do say so, myself). It exceeded the funding target and delivered the goods on time (and, more importantly, on budget) . . . and the book is still available in stores and online now!

Of course, having done it before, I am fully aware of how much WORK goes into a Kickstarter campaign, and I’ve been loathe to dive back into that pool again unless and until I had a project that I really felt strongly about. And the odd thing is, over the summer I’ve been pondering the fact that I’ve actually got TWO such projects developing in my notebooks and sketchpads . . . and I had to figure out which one to move forward with.

One of the projects was mostly focused on game design . . . the other one was mostly focused on writing and illustrating all-ages stories. And THAT was the big tension in my decision process. Game design is the arena in which I’ve had the most success over the years, and it’s also the category of Kickstarter that generally has the strongest track record. Writing and illustration, on the other hand is the part of my professional portfolio that I’d like most to grow, making it a bigger part of what I do and, consequently, am known for.

After much rumination, I’ve finally come to a decision . . . I’m going to follow my heart and press forward with the writing/illustration project. And, so I can stop “vaguebooking” (can I say that about something I’m not posting directly to Facebook?) what I’m talking about is raising some cash to fund my time and the physical production of more projects featuring Dr. Symm—the World’s Smartest Monkey.

I’ll admit, even having made the decision, I’m a little uncertain. Uncertain of the likelihood of success. Uncertain of how to get my message in front of the young reader audience. Uncertain of what I’ll do if I manage to catch a tiger by the tail and get the attention of a truly big audience. But one thing I AM certain about is that this project is where my heart is right now . . . and so it is the project I will devote my time and energy to.

I’ll have more info soon about Dr. Symm and the upcoming Kickstarter. I hope you’ll come back, have a look, and join me as I chase down this crazy dream.

Ups and Downs . . . the October 2014 Edition

As I alluded to the other day, the waters of the freelance pool have been a little choppy recently. I spent the first half of 2014 doing work with my friends at Monte Cook Games, helping to manage the freelance art conga line for their awesome products for both Numenera and their new RPG The Strange. It was nice to work with friends, but especially to have the luxury of steady work (and associated paychecks) for eight months . . . but it was always a temporary gig, and as the summer wound down so did that work.

Thankfully, that happened just as a few assignments came in from Viz Media (a company I’ve been working with regularly for going on a decade now) and a couple of other small pieces of work landed on my desk. I was back in the freelance pool, which gave me cover as I started looking for full-time (or at least medium-length contract) work! Even better, a couple of new clients came to me talking about work for November and December, and potentially well into 2015. Things seemed to be going swimmingly.

Yeah. You know what comes next.

I found out recently that NEITHER of my potential new gigs is going to pan out the way we’d hoped. Indeed, neither one is going to be able to give me ANY work (not in this calendar year, anyway) . . . and while there’s all sorts of talk about the economy improving, so far it hasn’t shown any real impact on my hunt for a full-time “day job” (or even a stable medium-to-long term contract gig).

So here I sit, doing okay this week . . . but completely unsure of where ANY income is going to come from after next week.

Now, as I mentioned last week, I happen to already be in the midst of plotting out a new Kickstarter campaign that could potentially generate some money (potentially more than “some,” though I’m not putting any eggs in that particular longs-shot basket) . . . but that will still take some time to finish planning, then more time to execute, and even more time to collect whatever funds it does raise. And my landlord and the grocery store and all my other service providers are shockingly determined that I give them money ON TIME.

So I think I’m going to try something I’ve seen some other creative types do during lean times — I’m going to run a sale!

I’m still working out the details, but I should be ready to post them sometime next week. Basically, I’ll make my professional services available for a significantly reduced price . . . with the catch being that you have to pay up front to get that deal.

Of course, I’ve also got a fairly sizable collection of PDFs and even a few physical books that I’ve already done and have more or less “in stock.” I could (and probably would) also run a sale on these products, either making them available at a reduced price or “upgrading” them with signatures, sketches, and other personalizations.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know that this will work. But it certainly can’t hurt.

Anyway, I’ll have details soon-ish . . . and when I do, I’ll post about them here, and when I do I’ll be most grateful to anyone who helps me to spread the word (not to mention anyone who actually takes me up on the deal).

At the same time, I’ll keep my eyes on the horizon, keep planning my Kickstarter, and keep looking for a steady gig.

Yup . . . it’s fun here in the freelance pool. At least, it’s never dull.

What I’m NOT Doing for My Birthday

In case you missed it in my posts over the last few days, my birthday’s coming up. And if you’ve been around my blog in year’s past, you know that I love to celebrate! And this being a birthday with a “number of significance,” I’m planning to celebrate in a big-ish way — gathering as many people as I can so we can all eat, drink, laugh, and reminisce together. It should be a GRAND time, and I can’t wait! (It’ll be the evening of Friday, Oct. 17, at the AKF Elixirs & Eatery in Renton . . . come on down, you’re cordially invited.)

That having been said, I had an even BIGGER idea for celebrating . . . but sadly I was unable to coordinate it in time. If I’d been better organized, I wouldn’t just have had a gathering, I’d have put on a SHOW!

Literally.

I wanted to get a stage space (a small theater or other local venue) and have a Stan! Show.

I might have asked some of the musically-gifted folks I know to do me the honor of a short performance, y’know, to guarantee that there would be REAL entertainment, too. But for the most part I wanted to get on a stage in front of a friendly audience and just tell some stories.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I like telling stories. And I’ll do it at the drop of a hat. But there’s something special about telling stories to an actual AUDIENCE. It’s a real thrill, and it’s not something I get to do very often. I’ve long imagined putting together an evening of stories (perhaps organized enough to call a “monologue”) and performing them in a real theater before a real audience. I flatter myself that I’m good enough at storytelling that it would be worthwhile, even for an audience that DOESN’T already know me.

Of course, my friends DO know me . . . and they’ve heard most (and in some cases all) of my stories told and retold repeatedly. So I feel I’d need an event of significance to warrant making them spend the time to make a special trip just to listen to me tell them again . . . and my 50th birthday seemed like the perfect excuse! But, as I said, I wasn’t organized enough to make it happen. So I’ll have to put this particular dream on the back burner again for a while.

But I AM having this awesome gathering on Friday. Seriously . . . come and join us if you’re in the area!